Firefighter Tales Vol. 1 – Stand-by for Steak

You know, I really, really wanted to do one post a day from Monday thru Friday, but I came up short one post. But, if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice I cheated. I rolled back the clock since this happened on Friday night. You dig?

Presenting… (what I’m sure won’t be a regular feature since I have the attention span of a gnat)


This Episode: Stand-by for Steak

First off, a little background: When I’m not writing for kids all across this great land of ours, I’m a firefighter and an EMT. Maybe you’ve heard of our kind. We squirt water on hot stuff, and put band-aids and such on those who have owies. Yeah, those guys (and gals!).

Since we occasionally like to spend time celebrating the goofy 2nd career most of us have chosen, there’s need to go out and party up and recount all the adventures we’ve had over the past year. Typically we call those things Appreciation Dinners. During them, there’s dinner and also some appreciation.

With me so far?

Okay. While I’d love to tell you this is the time of the year for Woodbury Fire’s annual appreciation dinner, it isn’t. Nope. A neighboring town was having one and they needed some of the fine, upstanding firefighter/EMTs from Woodbury to watch their town (a.k.a. stand-by) while they poured copious amounts of liquor-y drinks down their respective hatches.

This is where 5 other guys and myself come in.

Here’s the thing about doing a stand-by for another station: It’s easy. I’m talking, sitting around at their fire station, figuring out what we’ll eat (on their dime) and messing around for a good 8-10 hours easy. In past stand-bys, I’ve brought my Xbox and hooked it up to their digital projector so I could play Burnout Revenge on a seven foot wide space on the wall.

Yes. This is the good life you hear about sometimes on E! Entertainment Television.

I sign up for them whenever I can. It’s really a good excuse to just hang out with a couple of the other jokers and do your thing. I decided to be a deluxe nerd this time around and work on GOODHALO. (Hey! The thing isn’t going to edit itself).

On the way to the station where we were needed, I chitted and chatted with my co-pilot in the grass-rig.

TKT: You know, I hate to jinx it, but for as many times as I’ve done a stand-by for LSCV, I’ve never had a call. It’s sweet. Almost like free money.

Chris: Me neither. It’s just a good excuse to eat some steak.

TKT: Yeah, I’ve never really partook of the steak meal option when you guys have cooked it up in the past. I just go the easy route and get a frozen pizza or something.

Chris: I like steak.

TKT: Hey, I like steak, too. I just don’t like all the clean-up and dishes and what-have-you.

Chris: Steak. (drools)

(So, the conversation may not have gone exactly like that, but pretty close. Chris really likes steak.)

We get to the station and say hello to the captain and the other firefighters who are turning the joint over to us. No sooner are we there, the pager goes off. Seriously. 5 minutes and we’re being called to a house where a drunk woman is having:

– chest pains
– anxiety
– difficulty breathing
– a conniption fit

I jinxed it, all right.

Anyway, long story short, we’re gone for like an hour and a half, helping this woman out, dropping her off at the hospital, the whole deal. As we get back, Chris and I start talking about how hungry we are.

Wait a second…you didn’t think this post was about firefighting and EMT stuff, did you?

Chris: I hope they didn’t make those steaks already.

TKT: You know what? I think I’ll have a steak tonight, too. That’s it. I want to fit in with you guys tonight. My only hesitation is that I’m having steak again tomorrow night, too.

Chris: Like having steak two nights in a row is a bad thing.

TKT: Just drive, Chris.

Chris: Steak.

Back at HQ, a couple of us are sitting and watching complete garbage on TV, wasting our time in anticipation of the steak. A guy (who I’ll call Ben since that’s his name) comes in and the following exchange occurs:

Ben: How do you guys like your steak?

Other guys: Medium.

Ben: (points to me) You?

TKT: I like mine medium-well.

At this point, ol‘ Ben scratches his head and looks like I asked him the square root of squirrel.

Ben: When you say medium-well, what do you mean?

TKT: You know, just after it turns pink and is about to turn brown. That’s perfect.

Ben: So, you like it when it’s not pink anymore but just barely brown.

I blink twice and wonder what I’d just said. Since I don’t want to be a jerk and want to eat steak with the rest of the dudes, I nod.

Ben: You and I are on the same page, then. That’s exactly how I like my steak.

TKT: Fantastic, then.

I offer to help, but I’m waved away. So, I continue to watch some more garbage on VH1 with the rest of the dudes. I think it was a show about Britney Spears or something that no one has any business knowing.

Time passes and eventually ol‘ Ben calls for the other fellas that their steak is ready. You’d think he announced that gold doubloons were falling from the sky, they left so quick. Knowing my steak would take a moment or two longer, I continued watching the completely engrossing programming that only VH1 can offer.

After a time, my number is up.

“Thomas, your steak is ready.”

At this point, I was so hungry, I’d considered eating one of the couch’s pillows and washing it down with a nice remote control malt. I jogged down the hall to the kitchen and Ben was there at the counter, all proud-like.

Ben: There’s your steak, Troupe.

TKT: Sweet.

Uh…not sweet.

There, sitting on a plate like something the grill crapped out, was a blackened steak. I’m not even kidding. It was like Satan himself breathed fire on the thing until it was charred beyond recognition, put it out and threw it in the furnace for eternity. The thing looked like a steak-shaped charcoal briquette.

TKT: Oh.

I looked over at Ben’s steak, you know, the one that was exactly the same way that I liked my steak? Yeah. His was nice, juicy-looking, and succulent. I watched, almost in slow-motion, as his knife easily glided it’s way through the meat to cut off a generous hunk of delicious cow. He popped the nugget into his eager mouth and chewed. As if taunting me, a little bit of steak juice squirted out between his teeth and landed on his poorly-ironed, blue uniform shirt.

My steak was nothing short of ruined.

Mike: Everyone happy?

The other guys held up their forks with their nicely prepared pieces o’ meat on it and grunted their satisfaction. I said nothing while I cut through the blackened outer layer of my steak. Flecks of black, scalded meat fell onto my plate like negative dandruff. I took a bite.

It was like tasting a well-burnt yule log.

Like a trooper (hey, I’m aptly named) I finished the whole, rotten thing. I did my best not to wince or watch Ben eat his steak…you know, the one he prepared EXACTLY like mine? I swear he must’ve lost count as he pulled the steaks off the grill. I imagined my little ruined steak all alone in the grill, crusting over with char and getting all worried that he’d been forgotten.

Steak: I bet the guy that’s going to eat me is sitting in there watching VH1. I just know it. Also, I’m hot.

Anyway, I learned a valuable lesson that night. Never, ever stray from your instincts when it comes to food during a stand-by. Always get the frozen pizza and cook it yourself.

Oh, and don’t watch so much VH1…nothing good comes of it.